Representative surveys prove racist police profiling for the first time. Suspects are stored as “African” or “Indian”. No problem, says the German government.
The German police follow racist patterns in their random checks. This was confirmed in November by a representative population survey conducted by the German Expert Council on Integration and Migration (SVR). The association, which was founded by eight foundations as an independent, scientific body, found that people who state that they are perceived as foreign on the basis of external characteristics are checked by the police twice as often (8.3 per cent) as people who are not (4.4 per cent). With this practice, police authorities are violating the ban on discrimination in Article 3 Paragraph 3 of the German Basic Law.
The EU Fundamental Rights Agency had already made a similar finding in a study: 33 per cent of black people in Germany stated that they had been stopped by the police in the previous five years. Half of them felt this was racist.
However, the Federal Ministry of the Interior plays down the survey. It should be “viewed and categorised in a differentiated manner”, according to the answer to a question from Left Party MP Gökay Akbulut on the SVR study: for example, it is unclear whether the results can really be attributed to the police wearing “racist glasses”. This was also mentioned in the study.
With regard to the term “racist glasses”, the SVR actually points out that additional effects played a role and that “inequality mechanisms” interacted. Age and gender also had an impact on the likelihood of being stopped by the police, the study states. However, this is no less alarming: the probability of being checked is significantly higher for young, differentiated men in the 15 to 34 age group. This imbalance is also evident among women, but not as clearly.
Police forces in Germany also follow racist patterns in their databases. Around 100 “ethnicities” can be assigned to suspects, suspects or other persons, including “Abkhazian”, “Kosovo-Albanian” or “Belarusian”. A distinction is also made between 19 different “phenotypes”, including “European”, “North-East African” and “South Asian”. This is according to a briefing by the German Institute for Human Rights (DIMR) to the Bundestag published in December 2023.
These classifications also include the catalogue value “Indian”, although this is not used in all federal states. Following criticism, Berlin, for example, abolished this value in December. Berlin has also tidied up the “ethnic affiliations” and removed the value “Pomeranian (Polish-administered)”, for example.
“However, a fundamental change is not in sight, so that racialised typification will continue to be visibly handed down in everyday police work,” writes the DIMR on the “phenotypes” in the federal and state police forces.
The Federal Ministry of the Interior does not want to take this criticism seriously either. It is true that “no one should be disadvantaged or favoured because of their origin or race”, according to the answer to a further question from Gökay Akbulut. However, categorisation into “phenotypes” is permitted in police laws. Characteristics for sorting are, for example, eye, skin and hair colour.
“The police practice of using racist prejudices and stereotyping when describing people must be stopped,” says Gökay Akbulut to “nd”. The German government is clearly not interested in a strategy for avoiding racist discrimination in data processing. “I also miss a real awareness of the problem when it comes to police checks without suspicion,” says the questioner.
The issue is now to be addressed in the new Federal Police Act. According to the draft, the federal government wants to introduce a “control receipt”. Those affected will be able to have the reason for the police action certified, which should make it easier to check at a later date whether it was a case of discrimination. The Ministry of the Interior also hopes that this will bring “more proximity to citizens and transparency”. The law is to be discussed by the Home Affairs Committee this month.
However, the planned “control receipts” will not put an end to racist police checks. Hendrik Cremer, who has written recommendations for the Federal Police on behalf of the DIMR, agrees. In it, he calls for the authorisation for random checks in police laws to be completely removed.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: The Federal Police in Rosenheim have arrested a man from Benin during border controls. He is accused of smuggling in two migrants (Police Bavaria).